Most experiences that take place outdoors support multiple domains and can be connected across critical curriculum areas. Read the case study below about Honey and Richard, where two early learning teachers created opportunities that included science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math through the use of this book. Think about how you could bring similar experiences to early learning environments. Why is this important?
Honey and Richard have been teaching partners for two years. They believe in outdoor play and they bring children to the playground often. They use the area beyond the fence that has a small grassy patch and a few trees whenever they can. They begin each day outdoors by having the children dropped off in the playground. Just before the children arrive, Richard and Honey take turns doing safety and risk assessment checks of the playground and the grassy area. One unseasonably warm November morning, they decided to read the story, “Stick and Stone” to the children and brought them to sit under a big tree on top of a bed of leaves filled with small sticks and pine cones. They brought with them a pail of smooth river rocks. As they read the story about the two characters in the book, Stick and Stone, and how they found each other and became friends but had to deal with Pinecone who was a bully, the children acted out the story with sticks, stones and pinecones. At the end of the story, Honey shared the age old rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” and the children discussed whether this was true and talked about bullying and being bullied. Later the children returned to playground where tables were set up for the children to engage in science, technology, arts and math experiences inspired by the book.
The children looked closely at the rocks, pinecones and sticks. Honey and Richard listed all their questions. One child was fascinated by the pinecones and wondered what they were. Another child suggested that they were little trees that had seeds. Honey brought a glass bowl of water outside so that the children could experiment with whether the pinecones would float or sink. As they explored, they noticed that the pinecones also closed up! They were experiencing first hand that seed-bearing pine cones move to respond to changes in humidity. When it is warm and dry, it opens up to release the seeds. When it is cold and damp, the pinecone closes up! This is the science of pinecones!
The children have been creating nature mandalas since the early fall. With the stones, sticks and pine cones that they collected from under the tree, they started by putting pinecones in the middle and building outwards creating symmetry in art. Why is this important? What does this tell you about children’s curiosity and learning?
The children have been practicing subitizing using ten frames in the classroom. To learn more about subitizing see the PDF below from http://gse.buffalo.edu/fas/clements/files/subitizing.pdf. Richard and Honey were both surprised to see that the children used the sticks, stones and pinecones to create their own ten frame!subitizing
What does this tell you about open-ended environments and children being able to define their needs and aspirations?
Richard and Honey noticed that the children were creating flat representations with the materials and wondered if they could create something with dimension, which would require engineering skills. By posing a few questions to the children, they took to the challenge and worked on balancing their structure while considering weight to create three-dimensional works of art.
While the children worked together creating, Richard and Honey videoed their experiences using time-lapse and slow motion features on their devices. Later in the afternoon, the children went indoors and the videos were screened on the white board. The children were fascinated and wanted to return to the outdoors to see if they could build their creations even faster and even slower than was depicted in the videos.